Above: the band-bellied owlet with one of its parents. Senior keeper Trystan Williams said: ‘As we’ve only had the pair here for about 18 months, we hope this is just the beginning of a very good breeding future here in Scotland’. Photo: Scottish Owl Centre

 

AN OWL CENTRE in Scotland has celebrated a first-breeding in the UK of a rare species of owl.

Staff at the Scottish Owl Centre in Whitburn, West Lothian, believe the band-bellied owlet (Pulsatrix melanota) hatched on about June 10-12.

Band-bellied owls are native to South America and, while the species is classified as of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, it is a rare species to be kept and bred in the UK. These birds are elusive in the wild and so little is known about their breeding behaviour and habits.

The centre has only had the pair for 18 months and this is their first successful breeding attempt. The female laid a fertile egg last year, but it failed to hatch.

This year, however, she produced another fertile egg and keepers were pleased to see the owlet’s head peeking out from behind the brooding female.

Senior keeper, Trystan Williams, said: “The fact that the egg was fertile gave us great hope for this year. And so it proved! We first noted the male taking extra food to the nest-box, raising our awareness that a hatch had taken place. Despite being on view in a busy owl centre the aviary is fairly high and the nest-box set in a back corner. We simply afforded the pair as much privacy as is possible in a public owl centre and the birds did the rest.”

The owlet will be given a blood DNA test in the next few weeks to find out the sex, before being sent to another establishment to make up a new breeding pair.

For more information on the Scottish Owl Centre, visit: www.scottishowlcentre.com

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